As we come into June (Pride Month), we begin to see more and more rainbow displays in our favorite stores. While it’s nice to buy a rainbow shirt or hat, there’s a deeper meaning behind these stores’ support of the LGBT community. With the help of Google, I discovered a concept I hadn’t heard of before: Rainbow Capitalism.
Although the LGBT community has always existed, the Stonewall Riots in 1969 were the catalyst for pride protests. Over the years, Pride Month has devolved from protests into more of a celebration. As the LGBT community has grown to have a large purchasing power and be considered a market group, corporations have begun to use the community to their advantage. Companies use Pride Month to reap the gains of being a “socially aware brand” while in reality, taking no actions to support the queer community. Companies will seemingly do everything to raise awareness for the LGBT community - as long as it increases their brand awareness. They produce the rainbows but stop short of addressing any real issues the queer community faces. While some may say it’s not a company’s place to provide aid to the community, it’s not appropriate for these companies to use their corporate power to profit off of pride under the guise of social awareness and then not use this power or profit to do good. While some companies such as J. Crew will donate up to 50% of proceeds from pride collections to LGBT charities, others, like H&M, donate less than 10%. Companies commodify awareness, knowing that pride cannot afford the loss of big-name sponsors because of the needed money for security and the organization of pride events around the world.
At Holton, we are lucky enough to live in a bubble of compassion and support. So, what can we do to help with our purchasing power? The most important thing is doing your research: look into the percent of donations your money will go to and what activism the company engages in outside of specific “action” months.